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Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment - KATHY MCCORMICK CAL­GARY HER­ALD

It was the height of the boom when the Bri­tish an­nounced they were com­ing — notably, an award-winning real es­tate in­vest­ment, sales and mar­ket­ing firm head­quar­tered in Lon­don, Eng­land.

Pure In­ter­na­tional picked Cal­gary as the spot to open its first North Amer­i­can op­er­a­tion.

“As the gate­way to the Rock­ies, Cal­gary pro­vides ideal ac­cess for our project ac­qui­si­tion in the re­gion,” said Sean Collins, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Pure In­ter­na­tional, at the time. “When com­bined with the wealth

gen­era- tion in Al­berta through oil and real es­tate, we feel that there are also sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties to sell our global prod­uct to the do­mes­tic mar­ket and the tran­sient in­ter­na­tional work­force in the re­gion.”

That was 2007. To­day is a dif­fer­ent story.

“It has been ‘try­ing times’ for many,” says Tom Mathers, who heads up the North Amer­i­can branch for Pure In­ter­na­tional. “World­wide, we have all seen proj- ects col­lapse or near col­lapse and un­for­tu­nately, Cana­dian projects have not been im­mune by any stretch.” Even so, the com­pany is en­trenched in the Cana­dian mar­ket.

“Thank­fully, our dili­gence in se­lect­ing projects that would fit with our mar­kets and that have demon­strated so­lid­ity in fi­nanc­ing has helped us,” says Mathers.

Buy­ers to­day “are cer­tainly more cau­tious,” he says, al­though he is “see­ing a resur­gence of in­ter­est from an in­ter­na­tional per­spec­tive.”

One project in par­tic­u­lar — the first for the com­pany when they set up shop in Cal­gary — has de­fied the mar­ket.

Lo­cated in the heart of the Rock­ies, 901 Fernie is a 44-unit re­sort condo with a twist.

It in­te­grates old and new in a unique way.

The condo is partly an up­scale, unique New York loft-style de­sign — with fea­tures such as pent­house units with 360-de­gree views — and partly his­toric.

An orig­i­nal schoolhouse in Fernie that was built in the early 1900s has been re­stored and con­verted to 23 units.

Her­itage brick is preva­lent and first and sec­ond floors fea­ture 13foot ceil­ings. Her­itage-style win­dows fill rooms with nat­u­ral light and bath­rooms have fea­tures such as deep, cast-iron tubs.

“901 main­tains the in­tegrity of the his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture,” says Mathers. “The project man­dated the re­use of ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing old tim­ber, the brick — things that can never be du­pli­cated — and then it was built with work­man­ship that brings it to an­other level.”

The fi­nal phase of the de­vel­op­ment is the schoolhouse, which is near­ing com­ple­tion.

While the his­toric flavour has been care­fully pre­served and du­pli­cated by de­vel­oper Si­mon Howse of Le­Blond Part­ner­ship, the units also have all the mod­ern con­ve­niences and fea­tures that to­day’s mod­ern buyer wants and ap­pre­ci­ates, blended in with care.

Show­ers in bath­rooms, for ex­am­ple, have thick, frame­less glass doors, Grohe ad­justable shower sys­tems, gran­ite van­i­ties and ra­di­ant in-floor heat­ing.

Kitchens are custom fit­ted with solid maple cab­i­nets with self­clos­ing hard­ware, nat­u­ral gran­ite coun­ter­tops and GE Pro­file ap­pli­ances.

All schoolhouse res­i­dences come with the ap­pli­ances, a res­i­dence fur­ni­ture pack­age and custom win­dow treat­ments.

The ad­join­ing pent­house res­i­dences, mean­while, have floor-to- ceil­ing win­dow walls and large out­door liv­ing ar­eas fea­tur­ing ra­di­ant in-slab heat­ing.

The com­plex has a spa, fit­ness area, sauna, hot tub and un­der­ground, se­cured park­ing with stor­age. “This now-fin­ished project has ex­ceeded its mis­sion to be the most unique de­vel­op­ment in West­ern Canada,” says Mathers.

“It’s def­i­nitely an ar­chi­tect’s dream in cre­at­ing some­thing that will likely never be repli­cated. We use this project as a bench­mark for qual­ity de­sign when looking at projects.”

So far, the buy­ers con­sist of both full-time res­i­dents and those who buy for in­vest­ment — but the in­vestors have been a sur­prise, says Mathers.

“From an in­ter­na­tional per­spec­tive, buy­ers are looking for deals — al­though in the case of 901, it is more lean­ing to­ward hav­ing some­thing that is un­ques­tion­ably unique, over price,” he says.

“As a mat­ter of fact, where in­ter­na­tional buy­ers typ­i­cally look to have prop­er­ties man­aged to gen­er­ate in­come to off­set run­ning costs, a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional buy­ers in 901 have opted out of any rental pro­gram as they do not want any­one to use their prop­erty.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, prices have re­mained fairly sta­ble, al­though some units have had price ad­just­ments down­ward to meet cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions, says Mathers.

Of the re­main­ing units (just over a dozen left), sizes range from 1,290 square feet for a two-bed­room unit with a study — priced at $699,000 — to a 1,956-square-foot bi-level with three bed­rooms and a study priced at $899,000.

As for the lo­ca­tion, it can’t be beat, says Mathers. “The cul­ture of the Bri­tish mind­set is in­vest­ment prop­er­ties and the de­mo­graphic is young, wealthy and in love with the Rocky Moun­tains, ab­so­lutely.”

They see Canada as “a safe place to park their money. It’s a beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment with lots of space and a di­ver­sity of cli­mate, ge­og­ra­phy and cul­ture.”

Canada is also at­trac­tive be­cause of the good ac­cess from the U.K. to Cal­gary, as well as the abun­dance of snow for ski­ing.

“With North Amer­ica form­ing a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of our busi­ness, we have al­ways kept an eye on projects within the Fernie area,” says Mathers.

When the com­pany first be­came in­volved with 901 Fernie two years ago, Pure In­ter­na­tional’s Collins said the project “is a re­fresh­ing new life­style op­tion for peo­ple in­ter­ested in buy­ing in Bri­tish Columbia and I strongly be­lieve Fernie now joins Mont Trem­blant (Que.) in its four-sea­son ap­peal to the U.K. mar­ket.”

As for Pure’s other in­ter­ests, Mathers now says “we are re­cently see­ing in­ter­est out of our Dubai offices where — much like we saw a few years ago in Rus­sia/Moscow — de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors there are looking to di­ver­sify and be less re­liant on do­mes­tic con­sump­tion of real es­tate and hold­ings, par­tic­u­larly with the cur­rent over­sup­ply and con­stricted de­mand.

“They are looking to Canada as a venue to ex­plore as po­ten­tial ‘plays.’ I think we will see more of this in com­ing times.”

Mean­while, the com­pany has “ex­tended our ser­vices” to di­ver­sify over the cur­rent slow­down, in­clud­ing help­ing de­vel­op­ers ex­tend their reach into broader in­ter­na­tional mar­kets,” says Mathers.

“We have also be­gun to ex­plore and po­si­tion exclusive prop­er­ties — ready for the tak­ing,” he says. “Es­sen­tially, we are in­ter­ested in unique/exclusive/ex­ec­u­tive re­sales. Lo­cally, we have taken on Spring Creek Moun­tain Vil­lage in Can­more and are ex­plor­ing ad­di­tional projects in Mont Trem­blant, as well as looking at two other projects (in Cabo San Lu­cas, Mex­ico and Costa Rica) with some as­so­ci­ates.”

For in­for­ma­tion on Pure In­ter­na­tional, visit www. pureintl.com.

For more about 901 Fernie, visit www.901fer­nie.com.

Cour­tesy, Pure In­ter­na­tional North Amer­ica Ltd.

A for­mer his­toric school is part of the 901 Fernie project in Fernie, B.C. The project in­cludes pent­houses and loft-style apart­ments.

Cour­tesy, Pure In­ter­na­tional North Amer­ica Ltd.

The kitchen of one of the units in­side the his­toric schoolhouse.

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